Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dust Off Those Grooves (Chapter Nineteen) Out Of Sight By David Holmes


Early promotional material for OUT OF SIGHT had the music of Cliff Martinez listed as the score. Martinez is certainly no slouch as his music for films such as THE LIMEY and especially SOLARIS are among the finest in modern film, but no one else could have scored OUT OF SIGHT like Irish D.J. and musician David Holmes.
OUT OF SIGHT producer Danny Devito had heard some of Holmes' solo material, been very impressed and approached him about providing some tracks for OUT OF SIGHT. Holmes obliged and once director Steven Soderbergh heard them the famed Irish musician was hired on to do the full score.
The OUT OF SIGHT album is simultaneously among the great soundtrack albums and the most frustrating. Great, as each Holmes track is astonsihingly inventive and remarkably fresh, but frustrating in that many ques from the film aren't here. Hopefully one day the missing bits will appear, in the meantime let us celebrate the soundtrack we do have...an ingenious mixture of old and new...a cool get together where The Isely Brothers, Walter Wanderly and Dean Martin can hang out partying to the unforgettable grooves of one very 'possessed by genius' Irish DJ.
OUT OF SIGHT was recorded in Belfast, Ireland at Drama studios. Holmes was joined by a sizzling band featuring Tim Goldsworthy on drums, Phil Mossman on guitar and bass, and Darren Morris on keyboards. Holmes himself produced, scored and arranged the sessions that would culminate in some of the most unforgettable tunes of his already iconic career.

The Holmes tracks are all marked by the great playing of the band so a little time should be spent with the talented members. Drummer Goldsworthy has worked with Holmes quite a bit on the albums DON'T DIE JUST YET and LET'S GET KILLED. He has also had time with everyone from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to The Beta Band. Guitarest Mossman is a top remixer and also supplied licks to the above Holmes records as well as the Manic Street Preachers. The unforgettable keyboard work of Morris has graced many of Holmes best records, as well as Spencer and The Manics. The session was engineered by Andrew Scheps, a man who has brought some sensational sonic sounds to bands as notable as The Red Hot Chili Peppers and U.2.
OUT OF SIGHT marked the first of many collaborations between Holmes and director Soderbergh. The two have an interesting relationship and the build up to the scores is fascinating, as Holmes will begin sending the director mix cds months in advance to set the mood. These discs give the director an opportunity to hear possible older songs that might appear in the film, and to get an idea of the mood Holmes is going to emulate. These mixes have proven inspired in the OCEAN'S trilogy the two have done together for once obscure songs by Elvis Presley (A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION), Dave Grusin (ASCENSION TO VIRGINITY) and Frank Sinatra (THIS TOWN). I am willing to bet that Holmes has one of the largest and most diverse record collections in the world, and it is this embracing of all types of music that separates him from almost any electronic based musician of his generation...it is that diversity that marks OUT OF SIGHT as not just a great soundtrack but also one of the truly great albums of the nineties.
The album kicks off with a bit of Scott Frank's dialogue from the film. The entire running time of the record is made up of some of this dialogue. As on his solo albums, Holmes expertly mixes this dialogue in with the tracks so it not only isn't distracting but actually adds to each individual song.


The Isley Brother's roaring IT'S YOUR THING opens up the music section of the album and it is a great choice, even though in actuality it closes out the film. The famed groover would later be used to open up the short lived KAREN SISCO television series.
IT's YOUR THING leads into the first Holmes original, a short piece entitled I THINK YOU FLOODED IT. The song with its smooth opening bassline and acoustic guitar interchange is a funky little work out that fits the sweltering Glades, Florida section of the film perfectly. Mossman's guitar work here is particularly sweet.
Brazilian composer Mongo Santamarie's infectious WATERMELON MAN follows and it continues to give the early part of the album the same hot and humid feel as the first half of the film.

JAILBREAK, the second Holmes track, follows and it is another funky short piece highlighted this time by the near tribal percussion of Goldsworthy. Dean Martin's legendary AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD comes in on its heels and the great Cahn and Van Heusen sounds tailor made for the album. The song has been overused a bit since, but ten years ago it was still fresh and its inclusion on the album was a great move by Holmes.
The Martin track gives way to one of the key moments on the album, the lovely keyboard driven THE TRUNK SCENE. Fashioned for one of the film's great scenes, THE TRUNK SCENE is haunting stuff as the band lock down into a slow seductive groove punctuated by the Morris' incredible playing. This is also the track that changes the tone of the album from the sweltering sunshine of Florida to the bitter cold winter of Detroit.
FOLEY PART 2 follows and it is a nice, if extremely short, Holmes composition made great by the quirky electric guitar work of Mossman. The longer RIP, RIP follows and it is another one of the great tracks in Holmes canon. It's a low down keyboard driven bit of hard funk that wouldn't have sounded out of place on any number of Parliament albums from the seventies. The dialogue snatches, featuring Don Cheadle's menacing Snoopy Miller, is used perfectly well here as well.
Willie Bobo's SPANISH GREASE follows and I think it is possibly the one slip up on the abum. The track is great on its own but it would have fit in better with the album's first half. Still it does add to the at times disorienting schizophrenic natured editing of the film, which is probably why it was placed here.
The Isley Brother's get an encore on the record with the tough and smoking FIGHT THE POWER...the song is used so perfectly in the film that I can't hear it now without the George Clooney line announcing "Let's Go To Detroit" placed at the beginning of it.
The second great minimal keyboard track is up next, and like THE TRUNK SCENE, TUB SCENE is an unshakably great seventies style mixture of keys, bass and percussion. Holmes production work here is sublime and my only compliant with the song is that it ends. Not since The Doors RIDERS ON THE STORM has a Hammond organ sounded so menacing and seductive.
Walter Wanderly's brilliant take on Jobim's ONE NOTE SAMBA breaks the mood of TUB SCENE and it is followed two more short Holmes tracks, THE DRIVE TO RIPLEY'S and BITCH OUT. The tracks work as nice short workouts for the band as a group, as if Holmes is getting them geared up for the albums great final downbeat moment.
NO MORE TIME OUTS is my favorite David Holmes track, and that is saying a lot as there are few modern artists I value more. Starting off with the film's most haunting and tragic dialogue, the song is one of the most moving I have ever heard with its long opening keyboard solo that pretty much encapsulates thirty years of cool crime films about lost dreams and failures. Tipping his hat to Portishead's majestic ROADS, this is David Holmes at his most brilliant and it closes the album on a strong note of weight and resonance. Ten years later, this track is still a stunner...

The OUT OF SIGHT album would receive rave reviews upon its release, especially in Britain. It would begin one of the most important partnerships between a composer and director in modern cinema, and it deserves to be remembered as one of the best soundtracks of the nineties. The work is currently out of print, although prices for used copies haven't sky rocketed yet. I can't recommend a collection more, NO MORE TIME OUTS alone is worth any price you might pay for it.
Holmes has continued his extraordinary journey, and his recent OCEAN'S THIRTEEN soundtrack is one of his finest albums.
My two previous David Holmes articles can be read here and here.
For more on Holmes check out the Gritty Shaker fan site, which is unfortunately not updated anymore but many of the interviews are still active and you can read some of Holmes thoughts on OUT OF SIGHT and Soderbergh.

1 comment:

J.D. said...

This is a great review! Hands down, this is one my favorite soundtrack of all time. Holmes creates such a great groove on all the the tracks here and they compliment the other music well so that the album works as a cohesive whole. Based on this LP, I tracked down some of Holmes' solo work and loved it too. And you're right about his OCEAN'S work - some great music on those soundtracks too. I sure hope he keeps teaming up with Soderbergh. As you pointed out, they were so well together.